MEXICO CITY (AP) – Mexico’s president on Friday angrily dismissed statements by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken that the Mexican government had lost control of parts of the country.
However, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador acknowledged that Mexican cartels had placed people in the Mexico drug agency to authorize imports of fentanyl precursor chemicals from China.
Earlier this week, Blinken said, “I think it’s fair to say yes,” when asked at a Senate hearing whether drug cartels control parts of Mexico.
The Mexican President responded to the comments at his Friday morning press briefing by saying, “This is wrong, it’s not true. … There is no place on the nation’s territory where authorities are not present.”
But López Obrador acknowledged that cartels had stretched their tentacles into the Mexican government’s federal drug regulatory agency, known in Spanish by its initials as Cofepris.
“They even had representatives in Cofepris, people who lobbied inside Cofepris,” the president said, adding that some officials have been charged in the case.
Mexican cartels have imported fentanyl precursors under false names or mislabeled products with the help of regulators. They then process it into fentanyl, compress it into fake pills that look like oxycodone, Xanax or Percocet, and smuggle it into the United States, where the drug has caused more than 70,000 overdose deaths annually.
López Obrador also resisted Blinken’s comments suggesting that Mexico’s takeover of a port owned by a US company would harm investments in Mexico. Last week, Mexican police seized a cargo terminal owned by Alabama-based building materials company Vulcan Materials.
Speaking to lawmakers, Blinken said, “I am very concerned about this situation” and “the potential for a case like this to have a chilling effect … on further investment or our companies’ commitment if they see what happens.”
López Obrador claimed he was defending Mexico’s environment against volcano rockfall on the Caribbean coast. However, Mexican authorities had already halted Vulcan’s quarrying activities last May, and López Obrador did not explain how confiscating the port would protect the environment.
“I understand Mr. Blinken very well,” said the President. “He has to do his job”
The President has been publicly fighting Vulcan for over a year. He needs the port of Punta Venado, near Playa Del Carmen, to bring cement, gravel, and other materials to the area to complete his pet project, a tourist train called Train Maya.
López Obrador’s comments on drug cartel control came after the Mexican government was stung earlier this week by the execution – apparently by a drug cartel – of a drug gang leader wanted for months for the killing of two Jesuit priests.
Mexican police were unable to locate the suspect, despite a massive search, until the drug gangs took matters into their own hands, apparently killing the suspect themselves.
The Mexican president confirmed that it is a common practice among drug cartels, who often kill or extradite members of the police cartel to police cartels, which has caused too much trouble and affected the gang’s business.
“They executed him, we don’t know,” said López Obrador, “perhaps because they thought that the search would end and the soldiers who were there would leave.”